I love to work on vision. I’m a dreamer. It’s not hard for me to come up with new ideas, and I do it often. Not everyone has that mindset. I also think quickly and I realize not everyone does. In my present role, I work with a different church each year, and lead them through a process of vision setting. This means I’m engaging with a wider range of individuals, some who are excited about and comfortable with working on vision setting, and some who are not.
Here’s the big question: how can you make sure that everyone is able to fully engage in the process of setting vision for your church or organization?
- Follow a written plan.
When you lead a team through the process of setting vision for your organization, make sure you first identify a written plan. Whether you use something developed by another, or like me, pick and choose exercises from a variety of sources, make sure that everyone has access to the plan before starting the process. Then each person – not just the leaders – can see where the process is heading.
I provide everyone with a booklet they can follow. One of my team has a difficulty hearing, so the booklet helps him know where we are even when he misses some of what is said in the discussion.
In addition to the overall plan document, for each meeting, I also provide a clear agenda, complete with breaks, and times listed for each exercise so everyone can see if we are falling behind. I try to be a little flexible with the time, and even skip some pages in the workbook if we are running behind schedule. The participants can check those out later if they want.
- Use Variety
I like to do more than just a question-and-answer format. Some of the exercises I like to use for vision setting sessions are multiple choice or circle the best answer. Some are fill in the blank. I provide examples from other organizations that can spark ideas. I do a little leading but prefer to get the team to do most of the talking, especially since I am the consultant and will not be with the church as they move to implement the plan. My job is to make sure they can arrive at a common vision that is truly theirs. This means that I invite a lot of discussion. I do some work on a white board when trying to bring their ideas together so everyone can see any common threads. I even included a few colour charts to help visualize some exercises. I also like to add a few cartoons! Make sure to include times where people can get up and move around a bit. Sitting for too long will slow people’s thought processes down.
- Go Slow
When leading a vision process, go slower than you think you should. There are always a few who think slowly and need time to think about things. Some ideas may be brand new and might need some mulling over. Some participants will read and process the directions for the next exercise slower so you can’t rush the process. Too much information too fast will not work. Instead, give time to process to keep everyone’s thinking clear.
- Circle Back
I have found that it is helpful to present exercises that to get the team to see the present reality and the future possibilities from a number of different angles.
As I recently led our team through a visioning process, it was interesting to see some of the same ideas coming up throughout the session, and ideas coming up later that built on what was previously discussed. As these topics came up multiple times, it resulted in more clarity.
- Highlight Recurring Themes
When you are working through a vision process, note these recurring ideas so that everyone is aware of them. It’s obvious that these are the themes that will be a major contributor to the final vision statement and vision picture. Listen to how their answers to different questions tie together and form a common theme. As the leader of the session, you are in position to observe these connections and identify them for the group.
- Listen to God
In the recent process I led, there were a few times where we just stopped and prayed, both talking to God and listening to Him as well. There were a few times where different members of the team felt God was saying something we needed to pay attention to. When there were others that concurred, we took those thoughts seriously and integrated them into the values and vision that were taking shape.
It was very encouraging to me to see our team fully engaged through a 6-hour vision marathon! Everyone contributed to the conversation and was involved in the process right from the beginning to the end.
What are some ways you have found helpful to keep people engaged in process of developing a vision or strategy?
Keep looking up,